Industry Minister mandate letter calls to reduce cellphone bills, advance Digital Charter

Navdeep Bains will have to work with many ministers to be able to complete his tasks

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains has remained in his ministerial role for another term, and as part of his mandate letter, he is tasked to advance the Digital Charter, reduce cellphone bills, work with telecom companies, and help create better privacy laws.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released mandate letters on December 13th to his cabinet of ministers that list duties as part of their new job title.

Bains was one of the few cabinet ministers in the last government who was not shuffled out of his role. As part of his mandate letter, he will have to work with the Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Minister, the Digital Government Minister, the Canadian Heritage Minister, the Natural Resources Minister and Justice Minister, among other ministers.

Work with telecom companies, reduce cellphone prices by 25 percent

Bains will also be tasked to “use all available instruments, including the advancement of the 2019 Telecom Policy Directive” to reduce the cost of cellphone prices in Canada by 25 percent. This particular point was one that was promised by Justin Trudeau during his election campaign.

“You will work with telecom companies and expand mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) in the market. If within two years this price target is not achieved, you can expand MVNO qualifying rules and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission mandate on affordable pricing,” his letter read.

Along with that, Bains is tasked to ensure that spectrum is awarded “based on commitments towards consumer choice, affordability and broad access.”

Bains is also tasked to create a Canadian Consumer Advocate that would ensure “a single point of contact for people who need help with federally regulated banking, telecom or transportation-companies.” The individual would ensure that complaints are reviewed and if issues are found to give appropriate penalties.

He will also work with Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Minister to ensure that 100 percent of Canadians are connected to high-speed internet services by 2030, a promise that the Liberal government had made earlier this year.

Modernize various acts, content providers must ‘offer meaningful levels of Canadian content’

He will also work with the Canadian Heritage Minister to ensure to modernize the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act and to make sure that content in English and French is easily available. The letter read that this will also mean that the two need to work together to “ensure quality affordable internet, mobile and media access.”

Bains will further work the Heritage Minister to ensure that content providers, including internet giants, “offer meaningful levels of Canadian content in their catalogues, contribute to the creation of Canadian Content in both Official Languages, promote this content and make it easily accessible on their platforms.”

Better privacy laws to protect Canadians

On online privacy, Bains is tasked to work with the Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada and the Heritage Minister to advance the Digital Charter, which was announced earlier this year.

He is also tasked at giving the Privacy Commissioner “enhanced powers,” in order to “establish a new set of online rights, including: data portability; the ability to withdraw, remove and erase basic personal data from a platform; the knowledge of how personal data is being used, including with a national advertising registry and the ability to withdraw consent for the sharing or sale of data; the ability to review and challenge the amount of personal data that a company or government has collected; proactive data security requirements; the ability to be informed when personal data is breached with appropriate compensation; and the ability to be free from online discrimination including bias and harassment.”

Further, Bains will work with the Heritage Minister to establish new regulations for large digital companies “to better protect people’s personal data and encourage greater competition in the digital marketplace.” His letter noted that there will be the creation of a Data Commissioner who will oversee this.

Create more zero-emission automotive incentives

Bains is also in charge of working with the Natural Resources Minister to install up to 5,000 additional charging stations along the Trans Canada Highway and other major road networks and to expand existing zero-emission vehicle incentives by providing a 10 percent rebate on used zero-emission vehicles.

He will also work with the Digital Government Minister, a new cabinet role, in order to work on the ethical use of data and digital tools like artificial intelligence for a better government.